Digital-First B2B Commerce Strategy for Millennial Buyers

Brought to you by WBR Insights

The times they are a-changing. Now in their twenties and thirties, the millennial generation is starting to fill out executive-level positions at companies where they are employed, not counting the huge number who have struck out on their own and started their own businesses.

That means people in this demographic are now in the position of buyers and are the ones B2B brands are going to be dealing with when attempting to acquire new business. While millennials fall short of being digital natives like subsequent generations, most have spent a significant portion of their lives growing up alongside technology. As such, brands looking to do business with them need to understand their habits and interact with them using those channels.

With that in mind, here are three trends you need to be following to connect with millennial buyers in 2020.

#1 Digital Communication

Gone are the days when the sales process was kicked off with a visit from a rep, armed with catalogs and samples to try to get the prospect on board.

42 percent of millennials use real-time messaging and 42 percent use social media while at work. This means that, as B2B buyers, they favor omnichannel communication methods for quick and instantly-gratifying information which gives them everything they need in the most streamlined manner possible.

Whereas contact with salespeople - whether face-to-face or in person - would once have been the first step in the sales process, these are now secondary channels where millennial buyers are concerned. These interactions are still an important part of the process, but millennials prefer that they occur further down the funnel. Millennials consider internet searches, vendor websites, co-workers, and peers as their primary information streams, with the younger end of the generation especially favoring social media.

Therefore, in 2020, your B2B brand is going to need to rethink its sales funnel to make sure you are meeting prospective clients where they are.

#2 A Global Digital Marketplace

Millennial buyers are also changing up their sourcing habits in the digital age. It used to be that businesses would rely on a single, local, and regular supplier from which they would source everything they needed for their business.

We now find ourselves in a world where the internet has opened an entire planet of supply opportunities, and millennial buyers are more than happy to take advantage of it. This new marketplace has even seen millennials able to buy directly from manufacturers - a practice that has increased by over 20 percent since 2017. Distributors saw a 15 percent drop - to 38 percent - in purchase share during the same period, while manufacturers and online marketplaces grew by 10 percent and 17 percent respectively.

As we move into 2020, we can expect this trend to continue. B2B brands who want to remain competitive need to have a strong online presence so they can stand out in the swirling internet maelstrom.

Millennials are also significantly more likely to source goods from outside of the US. Research has shown that millennial buyers source almost half their products internationally - many more than their baby boomer or even GenX counterparts.

#3 Additional Services

A side effect of the service millennials have come to expect thanks to their interactions with consumer brands such as Amazon is that they are looking for B2B buying relationships that mirror those experiences as closely as possible.

When they place orders for products, the lightning-fast delivery facilitated by Amazon has led millennials to expect a similarly rapid service from B2B brands. 26 percent of millennial buyers expect orders to arrive within two days. They are also willing - much like with Amazon Prime - to pay a little extra for fast delivery, with 81 percent forking out for a next-day service.

Millennial buyers are also searching for B2B brands that can offer superior customer service. This is again driven by the focus on service demonstrated by the consumer brands they choose to do business with. A massive 87 percent of millennials have stated that they would be happy to shift their business to an alternative vendor that they felt would provide a better after-sales service.

Final Thoughts

Millennial buyers are changing the game and will continue to do so in 2020. Those brands who are willing to spot the trends and offer the types of services and interactions this generation expects will have the best chances of success.

"The rise of Millennials in the workplace ushers in a new era that challenges long-standing industry norms," said Vice President of marketing operations at UPS, Brooke Yamini. "Not only do these young, tech-savvy customers want orders delivered quickly, they are also influenced by additional services and post-sales support."

Changing demographics is set to be a hot topic at B2B Online 2020, taking place in April at the Chicago Marriott Downtown.

Download the agenda today form more information and insights.

Return to Blog